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Video of Biden botching Ukraine history is a deepfake

A video spreading across X appears to show Joe Biden erroneously saying Russia has occupied Kyiv for 10 years, confusing the Ukrainian capital with the annexed peninsula of Crimea. But the clip is a deepfake combining fabricated audio with unrelated footage; AFP found no record of the US president making such remarks.

"The Joe Biden promised to help Ukraine free Kiev from the Russian occupation that has been going on for the last 10 years," says a March 19, 2024 post from an X account called "S p r i n t e r F a c t o r y," which frequently shares disinformation about the president, the war in Ukraine and other topics.

<span>Screenshot from X taken March 21, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken March 21, 2024

The post includes a video of Biden at a podium in the White House.

"At this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine. We will ensure that Ukraine has what it needs to free Kyiv from Russian occupation which has lasted for 10 years," the president appears to say.

Similar posts sharing the clip rocketed across X, where disinformation has accelerated since billionaire Elon Musk's 2022 takeover.

<span>Screenshot from X taken March 21, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken March 21, 2024

The video builds on attacks -- often buoyed by videos edited to make Biden look frail and confused -- over the president's fitness for office as he seeks reelection at 81. Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, but Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control despite repeated attacks.

Concerns over Biden's mental acuity peaked with Special Counsel Robert Hur's report on the Democrat's handling of classified documents. Hur said Biden "would likely present himself to a jury ... as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

But the clip of Biden saying Russia has occupied Kyiv for a decade is a digital fabrication.

"I am confident that this is a fake video," said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley and an expert in digital forensics (archived here).

Farid analyzed the video and told AFP a model trained to distinguish real speech from that created by artificial intelligence "confidently classifies the audio as AI-generated." A separate model trained to detect inconsistencies between the movements of a speaker's mouth and their words also "confidently classifies the video as fake."

"There are clear visual signs in the video that this is a lip-sync deepfake in which President Biden’s mouth has been synthesized to be consistent with the AI-generated voice," Farid said in a March 21 email.

No record of comments

The footage repurposed for the deepfake appears to come from remarks Biden gave February 8 in response to Hur's report (archived here).

Official White House footage shows Biden wearing the same patterned tie and making the same gestures.

The president never mentioned Ukraine (archived here). Instead, he acknowledged the special counsel's decision not to pursue charges and challenged the report's characterization of his recall.

"They decided not to move forward," Biden said in the moment clipped for the deepfake spreading online. "For any extraneous commentary, they don't know what they're talking about. It has no place in this report.

"The bottom line is, the matter is now closed. And we can continue what I have always focused on: my job of being president of the United States of America. Thank you, and I'll take some questions."

AFP found no record of Biden making the remarks about Ukraine in the White House's collection of speeches, live streams or Factba.se, an interactive database tracking the president's public statements.

He did issue a similar pronouncement about the war in the Gaza Strip after Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, a US ally (archived here).

"In this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel," Biden said October 10, 2023 (archived here). "And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack."

AFP contacted the White House for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has previously debunked other misinformation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine here and US politics here.